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Zambia’s cyber security stance worries civil rights groups

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , 04 Feb 2021

Zambia’s government has moved closer to officially introducing the Cyber Security and Cybercrimes Bills of 2021, recently approved by cabinet – and the move has sparked concern among internet rights groups.

Government spokesperson Dora Siliya said the laws will also help promote the responsible use of social media platforms and facilitate identification, declaration and protection of national critical infrastructure.

However, internet rights organisation Bloggers of Zambia has urged caution and called for increased cyber security education and awareness.

CEO Richard Mulonga said they are making the call because cyber security laws are being used in certain countries to infringe on internet freedoms and to shut down the internet, specifically during events such as elections and peaceful protests.

Mulonga said the internet had become an important resource for the realisation of democracy and requires governance that enhances digital rights.

Mulonga said: “Admittedly, there are major challenges on the internet that require adequate legislation to make the online space safe and secure for all, including children, women and girls but this legislation must be participatory. There is need for internet laws and policies to be democratic, specific and must enhance online rights and freedom rather than used to silence citizens voices online.”

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia has also warned against the abuse or misapplication of the National Cyber Security policy to develop legislation that would hinder the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms by citizens in the country.

MISA Zambia chairperson Hellen Mwale said digital and other online platforms must be left open to allow citizens participation in governance issues.

“There is need for policy guidance on how best to deal with crimes such as identity theft, pornography, online bullying and human trafficking among other vices that are harmful to human rights and dignity,” Mwale said.

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